Afraid Of Going To The Dentist? The Results Can Be Oral Pain AND Pain In The Wallet!

Posted on Feb 21, 2017 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

For people who have a fear of heights, it is difficult for those who don’t to understand the emotions that high places can trigger. Or, for people who are afraid of dogs, it can be a rather puzzling problem for those who us who think of our dogs as family.

Fear of going to a dentist is another fear that some individuals have and others do not. And, dental fear is more common than not, with an estimated 75% of American adults having some level of fear or anxiety associated with dentistry. Fear Smiley Face

While people who are fearful of dogs can avoid them much of the time, people who have dental fear pay a high price for avoiding dental care. This ‘high price’ comes in the form of compromised oral health and the need for more-complex treatment that may have been prevented in the first place.

As a Periodontist, I see a great many patients who have acquired gum disease or lost teeth because of dental fear. For most, their fears began following a traumatic experience in a dental chair many years prior. I have also seen some fearful patients who can’t recall exactly when their fears began or why they emerged.

What I have learned in my specialty is that perceived pain can be just as real as actual pain. When someone has been hurt during dental care and the patient felt helpless to halt the pain, it’s logical that they may anticipate similar sensations during subsequent care — UNLESS the patient develops a tremendous amount of trust with their caregivers.

It’s normal that even patients with no fears of dental visits can feel anxious at times. Being positioned on your back on a narrow surface can make anyone feel vulnerable. Added to that? The mouth’s interior is a sensitive area. When you open your mouth for another person to prod around using pointed instruments without knowing what they’re doing, even relaxed patients know there is the potential for an even-slight jab or prick.

I am very proud of the relationship of trust I have with our patients. They know my goal is to NEVER cause them discomfort. Although we cannot always guarantee they’ll have no discomfort at all, my staff and I take extra steps to provide optimal comfort at every visit. This is why we offer oral and I.V. sedation (also referred to as “twilight sleep”) for patients who desire added relaxation throughout their visit.

When it comes to dental problems, the snowball effect begins when patients cannot bring themselves to come into a dental office for care. For those who have fears, just the thoughts of walking in the front door can conjure up uncontrollable reactions. Some patients shake, break out in a sweat, and even cry (both men and women).

From your caregiver’s standpoint, here’s the bigger problem: When dental care is delayed or avoided due to fear, small problems that could have been prevented (or easily treated) become big problems. Big problems require more extensive procedures, more expense and more time in treatment. The fear of going to the dentist simply adds to the need for treatment at the dentist.

Too, when regular dental check-ups and cleanings are avoided, the result can become periodontal (gum) disease and is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Periodontal disease occurs when oral bacteria becomes infectious, causing damage to the gums and bone structures underneath the gum tissues. Treatment can be extensive. Additionally, tooth loss can create an entirely new set of procedural needs and expenses.

If you have dental fears, how do you have the care you need when just walking into a dentist’s office is unnerving? We begin with a Consultation in a private room that is removed from the clinical side of the office. We sit in comfy arm chairs and have an open and relaxed conversation. I’ll listen to your concerns and answer your questions and explain comfort options that should work best for your needs. Here, I occasionally find that a patient doesn’t want sedation but just to have treatment administered at a slower pace. That’s fine.

Although we offer relaxation medications in addition to a gentle touch, our patients find that trust is the key to their ability to have the treatment they need. Let us help you overcome your fears or anxiety so you can enjoy the healthy, confident smile you desire.

Remember, delay can result in more treatment, more expense and more time. Call 828-274-9440 to arrange a consultation appointment soon.

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